By Megan Vick
At the New Year, many people resolved to eat healthier, give up meat, dairy, caffeine, chocolate, or any number of vices. As many of us know, right around Valentine’s Day, all of that effort ends up being for naught. If you’re ready to make the commitment to your health and the environment, here are 5 easy tips to help you transition into veganism. This won’t happen overnight, so go at a comfortable pace with your transition.
1) Don’t let “Vegan” stuff scare you!
Veganism is not a punishment, nor is it a fad diet. Veganism is a lifestyle choice where you choose to not consume any food product with animal ingredients. Some vegans go beyond their food choices and choose not to wear leather, silk, wool, or other fibers from an animal. Regardless of how strict you want to be with yourself, don’t let veganism scare you. It’s not about what you can’t have; it’s about all the new non-traditional options that await you! If you’ve resolved to cook more this year, try incorporating a vegan meal into your Meatless Monday routine. Or, you can seek out new restaurants in your area to try which may serve vegan options. The possibilities are limitless!
2) Start eating vegetarian meals
Eating vegetarian is easier than vegan, I’ll give you that. Slowly start to incorporate vegetarian meals into your dining habits. Don’t feel like you have to eat salads all the time either! Enjoy your creamy alfredo pasta (with no meat) and you can always ask for substitutions! Frequently, restaurants will sub out meat for mushrooms as a main ingredient in dishes. Also, look for naturally vegan food like Mexican, Indian, Thai, and other Asian cuisines.
3) Use the fake stuff!
Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to use meat substitute products in your cooking. Try different brands, different vegan cheeses (we recommend Daiya), and use seitan, tofu, and tempeh to your heart’s content! It will help your body think it’s getting similar “comfort” foods when in fact, you’re eating better! We also recommend Gardein and Tofurky products. They are delicious, easy to cook, and most are completely vegan!
4) Cut out dairy from grocery shopping
When you feel comfortable eating more vegetarian foods, slowly remove the dairy products in your life and don’t purchase them again. Brands like So Delicious and Silk can give you a variety of plant-based milks (soy, almond, coconut), while Daiya, Follow Your Heart, and Tofutti can provide you with all the cheese products you can think of! Earth Balance and Spectrum are great brands for butter and oil replacements. Love mayo? Not to worry: Follow Your Heart makes Veganaise and a vegan tartar sauce (for your vegan crabcakes, of course). And believe it or not, there are several excellent vegan yogurts and ice creams from So Delicious.
5) Check the blogs!
If you’re still struggling for ideas and recipes, check out 4 of our favorite vegan blogs/vegan cookbooks.
Oh She Glows has some amazing recipes for comfort foods that have been veganized. You’ll be inspired to cook the delicious things she makes! Kathy at Happy.Healthy.Life has great recipes for the working vegan including lots of ideas for take-to-work lunches. You definitely won’t be bored! Lindsay at Happy Herbivore makes delicious and nutritious food and is a favorite among vegans and aspiring vegans. Lastly, Chef Chloe, who famously became the first chef to win Food Network’s Cupcake Wars with vegan cupcakes. Her name is now synonymous with vegan desserts and yummyness.
How has your vegan experience gone? Tell us in the comments!